by Kay Etheredge
He blocked out most of his childhood, but he does remember clearly what happened one summer day when he went up to bat—he remembers it because it was the day his dad was watching.
Bill (not his real name) says his childhood was so painful that most of it is a blur…and is it really possible to allow huge segments of a life to be erased or scribbled over like a messy mistake on a grammar school paper? Bill’s mom and dad were divorced and his dad was an alcoholic. His mom worked “all the time” and she had boyfriends, some of whom were mean. Bill, the younger of two children, was often the object of their cruelty.
She eventually remarried a Christian man whose influence led the family to become active in church and Bill came to know the Lord Jesus as his Savior at the age of 14. By the age of 16 he says he was living a double life…going to church, putting in an appearance, and then going out and living however he chose. He married at 19 and had 2 children, one at 20 and one at 21. Sadly, by the age of 22, he and his wife were divorced.
Bill’s dad developed cancer and through his dad’s disease their relationship grew closer. He and his dad had the opportunity to talk before his death and they were able to ask each other’s forgiveness for ways they had hurt each other and wrongs they had both done, and how few people get such a beautiful gift as wiping clean the slate of hurts before it is too late.
I asked Bill about a favorite childhood memory. Many people would go back in their minds to a birthday or Christmas or some other special celebration. Bill went back to a baseball diamond. He had looked and looked for his dad at the game because he’d made All-Stars and hoped his dad would come. He had all but given up, but the little-boy-hope in him looked one more time. He saw that his dad was indeed there, and soon after Bill went up to bat. I asked if he remembered what happened at home plate. His face lit up and he broke into a boyish grin and said, “I got a triple”.
The men at Brother Bryan Mission, like all of us, carry baggage. Some of their bags may be dirtier or heavier than our own, or could it be that their bags are simply more transparent? Maybe they’re just worn out and beaten down enough that they no longer try to hide what is inside, or there’s been abuse and they’ve been told repeatedly that they just don’t matter. And how easy it is when we hear something often enough to begin to believe it as truth, even though Jesus tells us that He is the way, the truth, and the life. We allow His still small voice to be drowned out by the world’s clamor and sometimes it’s easy to believe that drugs and alcohol will be the tools to scribble over our pain and then we’re left with a gaping hole in the paper of our lives as evidence for all to see that we’ve made mistake after mistake after mistake and tried to erase one too many times. Maybe one of the best things about Brother Bryan Mission is that it allows time to have a change in perspective, and with that time there is teaching and love and acceptance and support and accountability—a fresh clean piece of paper. And then the men can experience the beauty that Bill remembers from a summer ball park years ago—the crack of a bat and the running fast across red dirt all the way to third base—and the knowledge that the Father is always, always present.